The annual USA BMX Great Salt Lake Nationals have always held a special place in my heart. More than a decade ago it was the first national I ever competed in. Growing up just five short hours northwest in Boise, I was constantly competing against locals on any given weekend. Still, to this day, Rad Canyon BMX is always a home away from home.
For many that know me, I held the reigns at PULL Magazine until September 2015. Since then I have scarcely been seen trackside as I work on growing the race content for the iconic RIDE BMX. We have a goal to bring back true story telling to BMX. To make readers immerse themselves into events they may not have had the luxury of attending. Bring content to life via way of vivid imagery, flowing video, and epic storytelling. Either way, this is just the beginning, and BMX racing needs it.
So where do we begin with the Great Salt Lake Nationals? Simply put, Rad Canyon BMX, the host track for many years, is, without a doubt, one of the best in the business. For many years this event has been a staple on the USA BMX tour. While it averages in the 190 and 200 moto range, it is never short of excitement – even with this weekend being abnormally small with less than 160 motos. Not only do pro riders swarm from all over the globe, it garners some of the best amateurs in the lower 48. A toxic combo for BMX racing in it’s purest form.
At one point, Rad Canyon was one of the longest tracks around. For many, wide open is the only way to ride it. An iconic third straight rhythm that has always seem to be a race changerever weekend the gates drop. This year was no different as the fastest line through required the best toconquer gap transfers that could keep them winning or expose a fault in their lap and open the door for the third turn passes.
As always, the first turn at Rad Canyon has been a key factor for most. While it is tall and fast, entering mid pack could easily cause road rash. For some unlucky riders, it will certainly send them careening over the top and down the backside. Always enter with a clean lead to leave worry free. Rad Canyon local and BMX Super am Robby Patterson was a perfect example. He possesses a Ph.D. in berm warfare and on Friday he proved that being in the lead pays big after the rest of the main event class piled up behind him.
One golden nugget to add was the Great Salt Lake Nationals making the list for three-day events. While many have voiced their mighty opinions on how they feel about the amount of trio race weekends, I for one am glad this made it. Though mother nature unleashed her wrath on the Friday kickoff. Wind gusts howled and standing on top of turn one left me feeling like stuck in a sand blaster. Really there was nowhere to hide unless you retreated to your car or RV. Luckily that did not follow through on Saturday and while still breezy, was not the same typhoon style winds from Friday. The show must go on, and what better way than to kick off our race coverage with the best in BMX as the Elite Pro classes lined up in the gates.
Alise Post has not been as visible compared to the norm this season. Mainly due to her undying support of Fiance Sam Willoughby who is still recovering from a training accident that left him fighting to walk. Lucky for us all, the power couple made an appearance. The first event Sam has been able to make it to. Perhaps it was that added cheering that boosted post to the front of the pack. Both Friday and Saturday the Olympic silver medalist was untouchable. There were a couple of close contenders, but none of which could knock her off the top podium slot. Clearly, her training program and drive are on point as she reminded us all that the beast is still at the top.
One BIG notice with the Elite Ladies was GT’s, Sophia Foresta. The hometown hero has now graduated and threw her world level skills in with the best ladies in BMX. It was far from disappointing. Multiple rounds Sophia was riding like a seasoned pro. Being on her home track surely helped, but she definitely showed serious promise. Her uncanny ability to control her bike and lay down power will certainly pay off as she progresses with the rest of the class.
Much like the women’s weekend, the Elite Men classes were dominated by one man. That would be none other than Olympic Gold Medalist Connor Fields. The Nevada native has been juggling an insane amount of media obligations and events since his gold medal performance in Rio. Of course, he has still found time to stay on his “A” game. Salt Lake has always brought out some of the larger names in the pro ranks and this weekend was no different. Fields fought through stacked classes that included Corben Sharrah, World Champion Joris Daudet, and Twan Van Gendt and Niek Kimmann from the Nederlands.
Needless to say, the Chase Elite Pro held strong and didn’t lose when it mattered. If he continues producing this level of racing, he will have a solid chance to bring home the World Championship title. No better opportunity than doing it on U.S. soil either. Watch out Rock Hill, the Con Man is lurking…
Amateur Power Hour
Outside of the Olympic Trials last year, this is the first event I have covered in over a year and a half. While that certainly does not seem like a lot of time, plenty has changed. Wild to see some of the top amateurs now cutting their chops in the pro ranks. I caught myself multiple times scratching my head and trying to figure out who was dominating one class or another. I tried to keep in touch, but damn did I miss a roller or two.
Again we have to give the ladies some love. One of the biggest changes I saw since my last event was the performance of Addison Finch. Little sis’ to Pro rider Walker Finch and amateur hot shoe Sully, she clearly has the skills of her older brothers. Sporting Haro/Promax colors, Finch made her way out front on Saturday and finished it off with the W. Fellow Colorado resident’s and twin sister’s Emily and Ashley kept her honest, but couldn’t take it to the stripe on Saturday. Though the two did earn wins on Friday and Sunday. Once again the 15-16 Girls class has some serious hitters. Perhaps one of these three will take home that big silver cup at the end of the year.
This next rider is definitely no surprise to their accomplishments in the sport. However, he was in a transition back to amateur when I disappeared for a bit. Kinda like Alberto Ciari. Did anyone ever find that guy? Rumor has it he is playing a role with that new Daylight brand. Anyways, back to racing.
Jason Carnes is back in the amateur ranks and proving age is just a number. Of course, I am talking about a guy who won another national title last year. So is it any surprise he dominated the weekend? and on both bikes? Not really. Though, at what age is one expected to get a day job and stop playing on what many consider “kids bikes”? Honestly, once a BMXer, always a BMXer. There was a lot of unknowns with Carnes after Redline disbanded their entire elite team. Luckily he used his countless years of experience to brand The Berm Academy with Ssquared and Answer. That is keeping Carnes in peak condition as he can continue riding often, pump iron, and smoke gates on training days.
Speaking of Berm Academy. Carnes was not only kicking ass on the track, he was playing trainer and head coach to those currently on tour with the legend. They had a full factory pit setup and Carnes was taking care of every rider on tour. Keep an eye out for Carnes and the Berm Academy. That is one tour every kid in BMX needs to get on – it will change your riding forever. Chances are Carnes will make you better and faster than ever before.
Rad Canyon BMX, their crew, and USA BMX once again put on a killer event in Utah. This race never gets old, even if Mother Nature tries to blow us out of the way. In the end, being back at the track for a weekend of bar banging and berm warfare was nothing short of great. People continue to be excited about racing, even in a year with plenty of question marks and drama.
Nationals will always be the major proving ground. From what I saw, riders are continuing to do just that. Proving themselves as great athletes and enjoying the ride. As a sport, and as people who love the sport, we cannot let the politics be the cause of the downfall. While not perfect, BMX continues to be one of the best sports in the world. Growth is possible, let us all help do just that and grow the sport we all love. As that happens, we will continue meeting up at these events and having one hell of a time. Defeats, victories, laughter, tears, smiles, broken bones, and sore muscles are just part of this wild sport we all hold so dearly to our hearts.
Thank you, Rad Canyon for reminding us all of how much we love the sport. Here is to the future and there has never been a better time to be a part of BMX racing…